Debates between Lord Krebs and Lord Randall of Uxbridge during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 23rd Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Environment Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage
Tue 22nd Sep 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 24th Jun 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Environment Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Randall of Uxbridge
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I wish to speak in support of Amendment 43 on the need for binding interim targets. I also support Amendments 16 and 18 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, and, in many ways, support Amendment 15 about the need for evidence, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. The Government’s position on interim targets, as presented by the Minister in another place, Rebecca Pow, appears to be that legally binding targets would not be appropriate because of the unpredictability of the environment. In other words, events may make the targets hard to achieve. However, by this logic, the Government should not set themselves any targets at all, as unpredictable events will surely intervene.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, Lady Hayman of Ullock and Lady Young of Old Scone, all referred to the Climate Change Act as showing us the value of legally binding interim targets. As we have already heard, the Climate Change Committee advises on the five-year carbon budgets that are—I underline this—the cost-effective road map to net zero. One important point that the Climate Change Committee makes is that you cannot back-end all the actions because it will cost you more. You have to take early steps to save later on. So far, the Government have accepted the first six carbon budgets, taking us through to the mid-2030s, so they are legally binding commitments. These budgets not only provide us with transparency about whether the Government are on track but also a clear indication of where progress has been good and where it has not. That is why we know that the Government, in spite of good progress in some areas, are not currently on track to meet their longer-term target of net zero by 2050.

I see no compelling reason why we should not do the same for nature’s recovery. I admit that in some ways it is more complicated than cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The path to net-zero emissions by 2050 can be measured in a single, common currency—carbon dioxide equivalents—and we have clearly defined ways of decarbonising our economy, whether it is through renewable energy, better insulation of homes or electric vehicles and so on. For nature’s recovery, there is as yet no single, common currency nor are there the well-defined building blocks for achieving long-term targets.

However, the Government will have to work out the answers to these questions if they are to meet their longer-term targets, so why not start right away and meet legally binding interim targets? Statutory interim targets would enable all of us to see how the targets are being calculated—which relates back to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—what progress is being made and what needs to change. You can see what happens without binding interim targets by looking at progress on climate adaptation. In contrast to the Climate Change Committee’s advice on mitigation—cutting our greenhouse gas footprint—its advice through the Adaptation Committee on building resilience for the inevitable future climate change that we will experience is not translated into binding targets. I should note in parentheses that I served for eight years as the first chair of the Adaptation Committee, as a member of the Climate Change Committee itself.

Last week, the Adaptation Committee reported on its latest climate change risk assessment. It said:

“Alarmingly, this new evidence shows that the gap between the level of risk that we face and the level of adaptation underway has widened. Adaptation action has failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk.”


That is what happens if you do not have binding interim targets, and I fear that without legally binding interim targets we will find exactly the same failures by the Government with regard to the commitments in this Bill.

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I always feel rather humbled when I follow such eminent noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Krebs.

I added my name to Amendment 43 and support the general thrust of these amendments with regard to targets and interim targets. If we are not careful, targets just become aspirations. Without being too flippant, I have a target to lose a number of pounds—perhaps stones—in weight, but, without a statutory requirement to do so within a particular period, I am afraid that the time slips by and I find a good excuse, whether it is lockdown, the weather, all sorts, not to do it now but to do it next month. If we are serious about this, it is important to have interim targets that are statutory. I will not go on, except to echo the sentiments of my noble friend Lord Caithness in very highly recommending to my noble friend the Minister a visit the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton project in Loddington, which has done a lot of research.

My noble friend is absolutely right that you cannot just magic-up these things without detailed research. There are some uncomfortable truths. He mentioned curlews, for example, and he is talking about predation. There is a possible problem that by increasing woodland we are providing more cover for predators, so, where that is near habitat that might be good for curlews and redshanks, we are actually providing more refuge. These things are complicated, but we must have the interim targets on a statutory basis, otherwise they can just get lost in the sands of time.

Environment Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Randall of Uxbridge
Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I support my noble friend’s Amendment 5, to which I added my name. It is always good to follow my noble friend in his wise words. I have to say, though, that I rather feel out of my depth in this debate. I thought that it was going to be quite a simple subject, but I should have thought that we have such experts in your Lordships' House. I have been listening to the legal side of things, which I have little understanding of, while making law, and the excellent speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, on a much more scientific, biological aspect.

I come at this with a view that we want to make things simple. We are going to come, in the group following the next, on to a connection with nature. That is my biggest concern. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, said that the word “biodiversity” arrived in 1985. I was not a young man, necessarily, when it first appeared, and I had been used to using other words. I have been involved in this environmental field as an amateur for all my life, and I accept “biodiversity”—I use it myself—but I am not sure that the people we want to connect more with nature do understand it. I would say to those noble Lords who have mentioned international things that the European Union introduced Natura 2000; it did not call it “Biodiversitas 2000” or anything else. “Natura” and “nature” have their place. I would regard myself as an amateur naturalist; I do not know how you would say I am an “amateur biodiversity person”.

I think this has been a very useful debate. I end up more confused, though that is a position I often find myself in, listening to debates. But I have to say that there is a real need for us to make sure that our fellow citizens understand that the environment is about what they hold dear—and that is nature. When I was at school, we had nature study; we did not have biodiversity study. But I admit that I am not in the first flush of youth.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
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My Lords, one could argue that what is good enough for Sir David Attenborough is good enough for this Bill. Sir David’s 2020 TV programme “Extinction”, in which he talked about biodiversity, was watched by 4.5 million viewers on its premier. Those people, and the millions more who have watched it subsequently, will have some idea of what biodiversity is.

Although I do not support this amendment for the reasons that my noble and learned friend Lord Hope of Craighead so clearly articulated, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, for tabling the amendment, because it provides me with an opportunity, following the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, to ask the Minister to clarify precisely what the Government mean when they talk about biodiversity. As my noble and learned friend Lord Hope of Craighead said, words do matter. If the Government are to maintain the term “biodiversity” in this Bill, which I hope they will, please could they explain what it actually means?

I am now going to get a little bit technical. Ecologists recognise a number of different, but interrelated, meanings of the word “biodiversity”. At its simplest, it refers to what is called “species richness”—simply the number of species inhabiting a defined geographical area, such as England. A more sophisticated variant of species richness takes into account the relative abundance of different species. On this measure, an area populated by one extremely common species and, say, five very rare ones will be less biodiverse than if all six species were roughly equally abundant.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, has already said, biodiversity can also include genetic diversity within a species. For instance, one might be particularly interested in preserving subspecies that are unique to this island, such as the native pied wagtail, motacilla alba Yarrelli. Furthermore, biodiversity might encompass the genetic distinctiveness of species, by placing a premium on species with no close living relatives on the planet, or on endemic species, such as eudarcia Richardsoni, a micro-moth found only in Dorset.

Finally, biodiversity might encompass the diversity of habitats, such as woodland, heath, peatbog and intertidal marshes, found within a geographical area. Many ecologists distinguish between what they call alpha diversity—species richness within a habitat—and beta diversity, which is diversity between habitats.

I hope that the Minister, in his response, or afterwards in writing, will explain what the Government mean when they talk about biodiversity. At the same time, it would be helpful if he could explain the difference between biodiversity and species abundance, as introduced in Amendment 22, which we will debate later.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Randall of Uxbridge
Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 View all Agriculture Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 130-IV Provisional Fourth marshalled list for Report - (21 Sep 2020)
Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. The hour is late, but it is also late for our planet. While I do not take quite such a pessimistic view of the Government’s actions in this field as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb—in fact, they should be congratulated in many respects—for many of us, things are not moving fast enough, and we need to encapsulate some of this in the Bill.

I agree that the NFU has brought forward its own ideas, but there is a lot more to this. For example, I know that Defra is looking at the issue of burning blanket bogs, but surely, under ELMS, we will not be able to give money to land managers who consistently burn peat bogs. That should also be part of the Bill.

I will not detain noble Lords any longer. I support the amendment and I recognise that the Government have taken steps towards it. Perhaps we are too impatient, but we need to get on with it.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
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My Lords, this amendment has been most ably introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I want to briefly re-emphasise the reasons why I strongly support it. As the noble Baroness said, agriculture has to play its part in meeting our net-zero commitment. At the moment, as she also said, agriculture may account for only some 10% of UK emissions, but by 2050, if nothing is done about agriculture and other parts of our economy play their part, it could account for about a third.

In earlier debates, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to an excellent new book by Professor Bridle entitled Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air. Professor Bridle expresses the challenge by calculating that, at the moment, the average daily food-related greenhouse gas footprint for each of us in the UK is six tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalence. To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, we need to halve emissions by 2030. In other words, if food and agriculture are to play their part, the footprint of every one of us has to go down from six to three tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalence per day within 10 years.

We have already heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that the climate change committee has repeatedly reported that agriculture and land use are not making their required contribution to our greenhouse gas emissions reductions. This leaves an intolerable burden on other sectors, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has already said. I will share a different quote from the climate change committee’s 2020 report to Parliament:

“Agriculture and land use, land-use change and forestry … have … made little progress.”


It concludes that there has been no net change in emissions over 10 years, and no coherent policy framework to deliver change.

The noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, referred to peat bogs. Last Sunday’s Observer reported that there are currently no plans to stop burning peat bogs this autumn. Peat bogs are a major carbon store and burning them releases significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Surely, if the Government are serious about their green credentials and about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from land use and agriculture, they should ban this burning now.

Agriculture is not delivering the necessary greenhouse gas reductions. This Bill is the chance to change that and ensure that the right policies are put in place. The Climate Change Act is, in the argot of the day, an oven-ready framework within which to place both agricultural emissions reduction targets and climate adaptation to make our future agriculture resilient to climate change. That is why we need to support this amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Randall of Uxbridge
Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 24th June 2020

(3 years, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-R-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Report - (22 Jun 2020)
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who set out the issue so clearly. I have little new to add but would like to echo three points that he made. First, on the role of data, we have heard repeatedly in earlier debates that there is a deficit of good data on which to base our fisheries management models and quota allocations. We cannot fish sustainably if we do not know what is being taken out of the sea. Secondly, as the noble Lord said, we want to ensure, as part of managing our fish stocks and the marine environment for the long term, that there is full compliance with the landing obligation. Thirdly, one argument we have heard is that requiring REM would be too burdensome or costly. I am not convinced by that argument. As the noble Lord said, new technologies are coming on stream that are bringing down the cost of REM. For instance, in Committee I referred to a system called Shellcatch, which is being adopted for fisheries management by small vessels in Puerto Rico and Chile. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are exploring these new technologies?

The main objection to REM seems a bit like the objection to speed cameras: it is not fair to have someone spying on me to check that I am complying with the law. Fishers who comply with the law have nothing to fear and should support REM to guarantee a level playing field.

It is also worth considering what consumers want. We know that all the major food retailers support REM because they do not want to sell illegal fish and know that their consumers want to buy and eat genuinely sustainable fish. Their joint statement says:

“Fully documenting fisheries is an essential tool for successful fisheries management and the attainment of healthy fish stocks … Properly documenting and accounting for catches should not be sacrificed because there are implementation challenges in some fleet sectors … we are willing to support initiatives that will be necessary to support this outcome. These include … Comprehensive and cost-effective monitoring and enforcement of measures, for example the use of remote electronic monitoring.”


I support this amendment as perhaps the single most important change that this House could make to the Bill. It will help to protect our fish stocks and our marine environment, protect our food industry from inadvertently breaking the law, and protect our consumers from eating illegal fish.

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am happy to have put my name to this amendment, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just said, this is probably the most important amendment that we can make to the Bill.

I congratulate the Government, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, on the various measures coming forward: the Agriculture and Environment Bills— and indeed this Bill—which show a commitment to improving our environment, both terrestrial and marine, although we may want to change a few little things in both of those. However, this amendment, as the two noble Lords preceding me said so well, is incredibly important.

First, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just said, it is important to realise that this is not just being pushed by environmentalists: business also wants it. Therefore, you have a very holy alliance between business and environmentalists. It is important to collect the data. I think the Minister would be disappointed if I did not say something or other about birds. For example, the Government’s own estimates of bycatch in fulmars is between 4,500 to 5,700 annually, and in guillemots 2,300 to 2,700. But this is in fact inadequate data, because those figures are purely an estimate. We need more information if we are to protect these species and see what is actually happening, and the same is of course true with cetaceans.

The other important thing is that we will be able to monitor changes in species as the climate changes. I have just finished reading a very interesting article in the latest issue of the Marine Conservation Society’s journal, on the new species that are now attracted to warmer waters as those who like the colder waters move further north. This data would be extremely important in finding out what is happening in our oceans. It is very difficult to see without a lot of expensive equipment, so this would be a very useful tool for scientists.

I have heard this item about the devolved Administrations. First, I ask my noble friend: has this been discussed with the devolved Administrations and, if so, have they rejected the idea? I also know, from my time trying to develop policy for the previous Prime Minister, that very often the devolved Administrations, particularly the one north of the border, like to get one step ahead of us. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, had an idea about it being for England only. I would prefer to see it for the whole of the United Kingdom, but if that cannot be done, and if the other Administrations are slow in taking this up, it would be admirable if we did this just for England.

I am afraid that, unless I hear something very encouraging from my noble friend, I shall once again find myself at odds with my Government—which always grieves me in many ways—and will support the amendment.