1 Lord Krebs debates involving the Ministry of Defence

Queen’s Speech

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Tuesday 7th January 2020

(4 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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My Lords, in my brief contribution I will speak about climate change and the environment. I declare two interests, as a member of the advisory board of the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit and as an independent adviser on sustainability to the energy company Drax.

I confess to having mixed feelings about the Government’s agenda for climate change and the environment. On the positive side, I join my noble friend Lady Hayman in her delight at hearing the Minister referring to the two great challenges for the Government as climate change and biodiversity. I could not agree more. However, climate change and the environment only make an appearance in paragraph 13 out of 16 in the gracious Speech and occupy only 4% of the background briefing.

The real test will not be in what the Government say, but in what they do. As the Minister rightly said, COP 26 later this year is an opportunity for this country to show global leadership in tackling the climate crisis. However, as my noble friend Lord Hannay pointed out, we must show that we are doing what we have committed ourselves to do to tackle climate change in this country. Sadly, we are not.

On 18 December 2019, the chair and deputy chair of the Committee on Climate Change, the noble Lord, Lord Deben, and my noble friend Lady Brown of Cambridge, wrote to the Prime Minister, saying that

“the UK’s efforts to address the climate crisis have fallen short.”

Although the Government will meet the first three carbon budgets, which are legally binding targets passed into law, they have no published plans for how to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, even though those have also been passed into law. Later this year, when the Committee on Climate Change publishes its sixth carbon budget, the Government will be even further adrift from their legal commitment to net zero by 2050.

When will the Government tell us how they will achieve the necessary cuts in emissions from buildings, transport—as my noble friend Lord Cameron of Dillington alluded to—and from industry and agriculture? When will they tell us how they intend to make the country more resilient to the inevitable impacts of climate change, including flooding, drought and high temperatures?

The Government have announced their plan to create a new watchdog, the office for environmental protection, which will, among other things, ensure that climate action is taken. However, as the noble Baronesses, Lady Sheehan and Lady Young of Old Scone, have mentioned, for this new office to be effective, it will need real teeth, be genuinely independent and be properly funded. As a minimum, it should have powers equivalent to the current EU system of imposing court fines on national Governments for failure to comply with legally binding standards.

Finally, I ask the noble Baroness the Minister for a clear response to the following question when she replies to the debate. Our biggest success story in reducing emissions is renewable energy generation through offshore wind. However, as we all know, wind cannot be relied on all the time, so the electricity supply system must have a back-up. A crucial part of this comes from the internal energy market, which enables us to buy gas and electricity on a spot market from other EU countries. I checked on my iPhone a few hours ago: at the moment, we are getting between 4% and 5% of our electricity from other European countries, notably France. After we have left the European Union, this internal energy market with no longer be available to us, as we are leaving the single market. Now 5% of our electricity supply may not sound very much, but to the 1.3 million homes that would not be able to turn on their light, their television, their electric kettle or their refrigerator, it is quite significant. How will the Government replace the electricity currently purchased through the internal energy market, and what will be the impact of this replacement on our carbon budget?