Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

1.38 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, on the spectrum between success and failure, the Copenhagen conference surely has to be placed nearer to the latter. We should have no illusions about that. To delude ourselves that the outcome was really quite good, with clich├ęs about half-full and half-empty glasses, is to underestimate the length and difficulty of the road that the international community still has to travel if it is to handle successfully the challenge of man-made climate change. Such an approach will be likely to programme another more costly failure when the negotiations resume this year. We need to remember, too, that settling for an inadequate outcome on climate change, in contrast with some other multilateral negotiations, such as those on trade or nuclear disarmament, where half a loaf can genuinely be worth more than no bread, is likely to bring in due course a reality check in the form of catastrophic global warming, which it will be too late to mitigate and much more costly to handle.

What should our priorities be? I suggest that we-and I include in that "we" the European Union and not just the UK-need a twin-track process, with an implementation track and a negotiating track. On the implementation track, we should work to give effect promptly to those political commitments that are contained in the Copenhagen accord or which will be tabled under it by the end of this month. That will mean this country-at the national level and as part of the EU-ensuring that we are on track to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, that we devote enough funds to research, and that we are achieving nuclear build and a greater use of renewables. It will also mean putting serious money into programmes and projects that will help developing countries adapt to lower-carbon economies, and helping to finance the plan for reversing deforestation that was basically agreed at Copenhagen. If we can make a serious effort on that implementation track in 2010, that should considerably enhance the credibility of the negotiating track as we move toward the Mexico City ministerial meeting at the end of the year. Conversely, if we fritter away the year in bickering and inaction, that will

14 Jan 2010 : Column 644

seriously undermine the negotiating process. Clearly, what happens in the United States on cap and trade will be crucial to that implementation track.

On the negotiating track, I suggest that we have three main objectives. First, the EU should pursue and not resile from the more ambitious objectives that it set out before Copenhagen, which were then brushed aside in the scramble to save something from the wreckage of that meeting. That means that we should remain firmly set on achieving a legally binding set of agreements at the end of this year, because only a rules-based system will stand up to the wear and tear of the many decades that lie ahead. Then, we should continue to push for 30 per cent emission reductions by 2020 if others are prepared to raise their sights. We should not give up on the setting of a longer-term reduction for 2050. Pushing an ambitious agenda like this will require a great deal more of a concerted diplomatic effort by the EU than was forthcoming in the months leading up to Copenhagen, when it was preoccupied by its own internal arrangements. The EU's role in this negotiation is to set the bar high, but not unrealistically high. If it does not do that, it will be a race to the bottom-to the lowest common denominator.

Secondly, we should pay much more attention to the architecture and detail of the arrangements for verifying and monitoring the commitments entered into in any legally binding agreement than has hitherto been the case. Copenhagen showed that this could well be a make-or-break issue. The Chinese position of refusing any international machinery for verifying and monitoring commitments is not sustainable, and not compatible with a successful outcome at Mexico and beyond. Without such machinery the US and, probably, others will not ratify any legally binding agreements. In any case, over the long term they will not hold. Would it not therefore make sense for the European Union now to put on to the negotiating table a fully worked out set of arrangements for international verification and monitoring? I should like to hear the Minister's view on that.

Thirdly, I suggest that there are of course issues of process that bulk large-some would say too large-in any such complex negotiation. A great deal of heat was generated at Copenhagen over whether any agreement should be attached to the Kyoto protocol. There was also a great deal of umbrage taken about the accord that was reached in a smaller group. These process issues can be a bit exaggerated; we should not all be sitting around wasting time and waiting for somebody to produce a magic solution. I agree there with my noble friend Lord Browne of Madingley when he said that we need a more multifaceted process that makes use of everything, and we must not throw out the 192-country framework completely. We must not lose the baby with the bathwater, but we need other groupings. The G20, which will be meeting twice at summit level this year-it will I hope be better prepared than it has been in the past-and other groupings should all be brought together. I hope that if that is done, and if the building blocks can be put together before we get to Mexico, there should be a real chance at the end of this year of grasping the prize which eluded us at the end of the last.



14 Jan 2010 : Column 645

1.44 pm

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for the opportunity to discuss the Copenhagen conference. Personally, I am not sure whether its failure was a disaster for the future of the planet or a fortunate rescue from dangerous commitments. Time will tell. I want to focus today on global warming, which is allegedly occurring on an unprecedented scale and is allegedly caused by man-made carbon emissions-the majority view is certainly that way.

First, I should declare that I have no training in physical science, although I have in social science from I was when an academic at the LSE, and I am aware of the use and misuse of statistics. I should also emphasise that I believe it is of prime importance to protect our planet from pollution of its earth, skies and oceans. I am also convinced that climate change is, indeed, taking place; it always has. There is nothing new there, although the volatility may now be much greater. However, climate change may not be the same as unprecedented global warming, although there is of course a link.

I am not yet convinced that such warming is, in fact, occurring on an unprecedented and catastrophic scale-although I am aware of the weight of scientific opinion being that way-nor has it, to me, been convincingly forecast to continue in a devastatingly upward curve as the global warming alarmists claim. I am neither a "flat earther" nor a so-called denier-a nasty word, being linked with Nazis denying the Holocaust. The facts of the Holocaust are tragically well established. However, the facts of onward global warming seem less secure. I am not a neo-Nazi but a questioner. It is about those facts of global warming that I wish to ask a few brief questions.

First, on the state of global warming science, would the Government and the preachers of global warming orthodoxy please stop asserting that the scientific evidence is decisively settled and that virtually all scientists support the warming orthodoxy? The science is not yet settled, and some questions are unsettled; nor are all scientists unanimous in support of the orthodoxy or its theology. Five hundred scientists, for instance, gathered recently at a conference in Washington to express their dissent. Their views can be found massively on the internet, although no British media and especially not the BBC reported the conference. Their dissenting views should be addressed, not suppressed.

Secondly, concerning the conclusions of the scientific evidence, specifically, is the global warming of the late 20th century demonstrably different and more threatening than the natural cycles of earlier times? The 300-year long medieval warming period was as hot, or hotter, than our recent experience. Grapes grew on Hadrian's Wall and the Vikings cultivated the green fields of the then green Greenland. Is the recent warming significantly different and sure to rise continuously and catastrophically? Related to this question, what has actually happened in the first decade of the 21st century, when the Met Office constantly forecast mild winters and barbecue summers, which did not materialise, and we currently have the worst winter in at least 30 years? That may be a blip-and I suspect that it is-but it raises questions.



14 Jan 2010 : Column 646

Even more worrying questions have been raised about the integrity of some statistical sources for future global warming forecasts. The University of East Anglia's climatic unit, a major source of the world's global warming forecasts, has been exposed in practices which may not display the best values of objective science. Why did it perform a trick-its description-to,

It admits using "adjustments" to data, but one man's adjustments can be another's manipulation. It is particularly worrying that it strove to resist freedom of information requests and so has prevented scrutiny of its data.

In relation to the media coverage of this important issue, the BBC should follow its charter and cover global warming impartially, not as a cheerleader for the alarmist side. It is counterproductive and provokes, like manipulation of statistics, the kind of public scepticism which the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, fears. As for the Met Office, it should go back to objective science and try to get its forecasts right and cease blatant campaigning for one side. I note that it has just inevitably forecast that 2010 will be a very hot year-noble Lords should stock up on their long-johns and fur boots.

Why should we be wary of forecasts? One reason is that meteorology is clearly a very difficult science and the data are inevitably imperfect, but there are two other reasons. First, for too many this issue has become more a question of faith than of science. I am wary of zealots. Secondly, the forecasting black boxes are unreliable. We should remember the banks forecasting that their toxic debt had no risk. As a former Minister of Agriculture I recall that the black boxes forecasted thousands of human dead from CJD.

In conclusion, this debate should not be between those who allegedly nobly wish to save the planet by radical decarbonisation and the selfish deniers who do not care for the future of the world. We must continue seeking practical ways to cleanse our environment. Above all, we must seek for objective science to establish what is happening to our ever-changing climate. I hope that we will not rush into panic measures that fatally damage our western economy. We must make sure that we get the scientific facts right and that our policy responses are ones of proportionate adaptation.

1.51 pm

Lord Judd: My Lords, I join those who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Stone of Blackheath on having secured this debate and, indeed, on having opened it so well. If ever there was an example of how the future of humanity depends on recognising our total interdependence with the rest of the world and the priority of building up strong, effective systems of global governance, climate change is just that. Of course, we need convincing national policies across the world. We need effective UK/Irish co-operation. We need firm commitments by the European Union. But none of these can alone resolve the issues that threaten the species.

It is an urgent imperative to have in place global policies that will deliver. Gordon Brown and the UK Government have recognised this and their leadership

14 Jan 2010 : Column 647

has been impressive. This is a human rights challenge of the first order. At stake is not only the survival of our children, grandchildren and future generations, but also the plight of the vulnerable right now, as we debate. We must make Copenhagen a spur for decisive action. It is estimated that, by the time of the Mexico talks next December, 150,000 people will have died and 1 million more will have been displaced as a result of climate change. There will have been still more destruction of Bangladeshi coastal communities, still more inundation of island communities and still more Cockermouths, and this process is accelerating.

The consequences of insufficient action will be devastating economically, will lead to massive flows of migration by climate refugees and will inevitably produce political tension, extremism and yet more terrorism. That is the harsh reality. Clearly, short-term, market-dominated ideology will not provide the answers. The imperative is a long-term, inclusive, mutually supportive plan with precise undertakings for action and with firm target dates. Preparation for this will surely necessitate more frequent meetings than the mere two planned before Mexico. There will have to be high-level, authoritative ministerial representation at them all, able to speak for Governments as a whole. There must be specific target outcomes for each meeting and these outcomes must be reached however many nights it takes. There should really be just one meeting place where all these meetings take place to provide the concentrated effort required and to build up the administrative resources essential for success. Above all, there must be visionary and courageous political leadership able to rise above the destructive cynicism of the media at their worst. Again, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband have been demonstrating what it takes. They deserve our full-hearted support.

We should have no illusions. Without a legally binding agreement in Mexico in December, we shall be back on the road to the catastrophe that awaits us. We must have the agreed means to control emissions, ensuring no more than a 2 degrees centigrade rise; otherwise, we are set for 4 degrees centigrade at least, with all the nightmares that will follow. Without an agreement, there is a real risk that the rich country emissions will be higher in 2020 than in 1990.

As the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, pointed out so well, a key contextual issue simply has to be addressed if failure is to be averted. We have to understand that vast numbers of people in the underprivileged world resent being constantly told by the affluent nations what they must and must not do in the cause of humanity's survival. They see us as the people who literally polluted our way to wealth. They already pay the price in the vicious effects of climate change. But they are not mad. They are not to be patronised. What they want is a real and substantive shared ownership of the agenda and the outcomes, not coerced acceptance of these outcomes. It is not enough to want to provide them with help in preparing for negotiations, worthy though that may be. It is not enough to be enlightened towards them in negotiations. What is indispensable is a reality in which the agreed agenda is as much theirs as ours and reflects their priorities as well as ours. The $100 billion so far

14 Jan 2010 : Column 648

promised to address their special needs is reckoned by most informed front-line operators to be only half of what it should be and there is no transparent evidence that it will be additional to funds already pledged for development. The industrial world has to do better than this if the prospects for success are to be strengthened.

1.56 pm

Lord Birt: My Lords, I declare an interest as a director of the renewable energy companies listed in the Register.

The recent abrupt and startling rise of CO2 in the atmosphere means that levels are now twice as high as the previous peak some 130,000 years ago. This should make us profoundly nervous. However, putting the brake on will not be easy in a world facing rapid rises in both population and prosperity. We saw at Copenhagen just how politically difficult putting on that brake will be. That should not surprise us. As we know, the whole fabric of our economies and our societies is bound up at every turn with energy overwhelmingly produced from hydrocarbons, distributed by long-developed infrastructures and harnessed via myriad machines, technologies and devices. Changing these embedded structures and, indeed, how we live and work from day to day will be very hard and, unavoidably, costly.

We need now to explore those measures that will ease, if not eliminate, the awesome political challenge that the world faces. The biggest, though certainly not the only, opportunity is likely to be to use electricity to supply the bulk of our energy needs and to produce that electricity from nuclear and renewable sources. Carbon capture may be part of the answer, but I would not yet bet the ranch on that. Perhaps one day in the next half century fusion technology may unlock the boundless energy present in every atom and truly ride to the world's rescue, but in the near term a focus on electricity from nuclear and renewable sources is the safety-first approach.

The consequences of that are profound. Perhaps all Governments should agree a target that all the world's travel by, say, 2040 should be powered by electricity or hydrogen. That would mean electric cars, for instance, and a suitable infrastructure to support them. Perhaps China would find it easier to agree that. Though normally I am a profound believer in the virtues of market mechanisms, in this instance I think that the world will need to supplement a market framework on carbon pricing with some such agreed measures and a coherent approach to investment in research and development.

We need to focus on the enormous whole-system energy loss-some 80 per cent-that occurs between the energy source and the final productive use worldwide. We need the obligatory and internationally agreed designing-out of chronic energy inefficiency in many household devices. We need to identify what a modern national grid in a world of dispersed energy sources would look like. We need to invest in technologies that effectively and efficiently harness wave, tidal and solar power. We need to consider how to approach the manifest waste of energy-for example, empty office blocks illuminating the night. Finally, I suggest that, after the so-called chaos of Copenhagen, there is a

14 Jan 2010 : Column 649

pressing need for some new global institutions to underpin the world's efforts and to address the biggest collective challenge that this planet has yet faced.

2 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, two years before the Copenhagen conference, the UN Secretary-General wrote in the Washington Post:

"We must set an agenda-create a road map to the future, coupled with a time line that produces a deal by 2009".

Ed Miliband, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, wrote in June in The Road to Copenhagen:

"December 2009 is a make-or-break moment for the future of our planet".

I repeat: "make-or-break". Those challenges manifestly have not been met and the responses to the outcome of Copenhagen range from disappointing to disastrous. Key questions remain unresolved, including bankable emission reduction targets, the level and timing of financial and technological transfers to the developing world, on which my noble friends Lady Jay and Lord Judd spoke so well, and even transparency in monitoring and verification.

What will future historians make of the conference? Was it a depressing stage on the route to a massive failure by the international community or, let us hope, the best deal in the circumstances-a necessary part of the journey to a binding and verifiable legal treaty? I shall make three brief points.

First, the conference was an illumination of the change in the world power balance. Certainly historians will note that it marks such a transition, as evidenced by those countries that reached the Copenhagen accord. It was also significant for the relative lack of impact by the European Community.

Secondly, the starting point is, of course, the recognition by so many countries that the pollution over the past century and more leaves a great debt to the developing world by those of us who have benefited from pollution in the past. My noble friend Lord Giddens stated that the US and China account for 40 per cent of emissions.

Yet there is also a responsibility on the developing world. The conference failed to address many other causes of carbon dioxide increase, including from world population growth, a subject that did not figure in the accord. That is all the more surprising given that the UN Population Fund had just published its report The State of World Population 2009, showing a link between population growth and climate change that is complex but real. It is in part about our growing numbers-now approximately 7 billion, an increase of 200,000 a day or 80 million a year, which outpaces the earth's capacity to adjust. The UN report states that greenhouse gases would not be accumulating so haphazardly had not the number of the earth's inhabitants increased so rapidly and that the connection between population growth and the accumulation of greenhouse gases has barely featured in scientific and diplomatic discussions. The report mentions the importance of stabilising population by,

"Universal access to voluntary family planning",

as a key intervention. The status of women is central in that. This is a sensitive factor, which, perhaps, explains why so many countries shied away from this linkage.



14 Jan 2010 : Column 650

Equally, there should be a recognition that the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results from a number of sources, not just fossil fuels but those related to human activity. These include unsustainable farming and forestry methods that promote the loss of vegetation-"sinks"-and the release of greenhouse gases. At the conference, there was some genuflection on reforestation. It is surely relevant in this context that the population of Africa is projected to double to 1 billion. How many of its delegates to Copenhagen accept the case, for example, for moderating that increase by giving women increased status and the facilities to choose their family size?

What are the lessons for the future? How do we prevent the momentum generated at Copenhagen from stalling? Could the conference have been better prepared? How do we avoid the procedural chaos? Is there a case for separating the discussion into regional and thematic groups, as suggested recently in the Economist? Objective observers praised the role of the UK Government and we now need to prepare for the coming conferences in Bonn and Mexico, recognising the necessity of dialogue and of avoiding accusations of diktat to the developing world and seeking creative ways of preventing the recurrence of the procedural wrangles that characterised Copenhagen.

Finally, we should recognise the gap between the necessary reduction and the pledges. In short, we should seek urgent agreement on the next steps, so that the UN Secretary-General's call two years ago for a road map for the future can be produced with clear timelines. I look forward to hearing the Government's response from my noble friend on the Front Bench.

2.06 pm

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, as always, it is a privilege to take part in a debate in this House on this subject. I speak as a farmer who has endured too many wet harvests to be unduly concerned about a couple of weeks of somewhat gloomy weather coming out of a place called Copenhagen. There is always next week and next year. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will clearly indicate how he sees the process of moving the international agenda forward, because it is clear that with 180-odd nations meeting together for a fortnight, which, in itself, was a major achievement, and with at the end a general agreement for action, this area of international work will be vital.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page