Environment

1. My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to return to this important subject: it was on this subject that I gave my maiden address in your Lordships’ House about the same time last year. Our stewardship of the environment is one of the most pressing concerns of the present time, and we must ensure that we take great care not to make mistakes that could prove damaging and dangerous.

2. The global concern about climate change is embodied in the Kyoto Protocol: yet, as a mechanism for achieving emissions reduction, it can only be judged a failure. There has been no real reduction in emissions and it does not adequately deal with the need of societies to adapt to climate change.

3. It is the Opposition that has led the national debate on the safe management of our environment. As David Cameron has said, this issue “is not just about ticking a few boxes – it is about changing our political system and changing our lifestyles” . It has been David Cameron that has led the charge for a Climate Change Bill, and the Government has responded to that pressure.

4. Scientists may argue about the underlying causes of climate change. However, it is widely acknowledged that the temperature of the earth is rising: and most agree that we should focus our policy debate on what action we can take to address the issues that these changes raise for us.

5. In regard to problems relating to climate change we have not seen the emergence of a global price for carbon, and it is unlikely that one will develop in the course of the next five to ten years. Even if it were to be established, we are unlikely to see it deliver much more than an incentive towards efficiency gains.

6. We must take action to ensure that man-made carbon emissions peak by 2015, and reduce steadily thereafter: without such action, it is likely that we will be unable to prevent dangerous levels of global warming. I welcome the introduction of a Climate Change Bill, and to seeing it crafted into a thoroughly effective piece of legislation: this country must be at the forefront of the global conversion to a de-carbonised economy.

7. On that basis, it is important that the Bill contains a legal framework to underpin our national contribution to climate change; I welcome the creation of an independent committee on climate change, but want the Government to consider whether advice from the committee could be provided on ‘five year carbon budgets’ and whether the national target should be strengthened as progress occurs; an annual report from the Government to Parliament on progress and a statutory target reduction in carbon dioxide emissions monitored on a five-yearly basis.

8. However, there should also be a new carbon trading scheme for large and medium-sized firms to cut more than four million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2020. We should also consider whether or not we can introduce the concept of carbon trading in other sectors of the economy.

9. The suggestion that the Government are going to include powers for local authorities to introduce financial incentives to promote recycling merit further examination. I would welcome more from the Minister on how the Bill will ensure that the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation will be enhanced.

10. The European solution offers more promise. One of the most advanced examples of harnessing market power to address the problem is the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. It is essential, however, if we are to make this work, that we ensure that it becomes more open, transparent and accountable, and issue permits on the basis of auction, rather than the present approach. The principle of polluter pays is sound: using fiscal measures should be measured, not on the basis of the financial numbers involved, but, rather whether it makes any difference in the carbon emissions that we emit. The fifteen countries of the European Union before enlargement promised to cut emissions by eight per cent on 1990 levels by 2012: so far we have managed only a one per cent cut.

11. There is much more work to be done. Even if the Climate Change Bill proves to be effective, that will still only be the start of a very long journey: and we need to be ready to commit to the trials that will present during that exercise. Sensible stewardship of the earth is a duty, and one that we need adequately to answer.

12. My Lords, I may add that I am an insurance broker and some insurance companies are considering introduction of schemes whereby premium reductions can be granted for companies who have better management of waste and take measures to reduce pollution and emissions.

Updated: 27/08/2009 — 4:18 PM