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2.41 pm

Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the distinguished right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), who seems to hit more bases in one short speech than the rest of us put together, even if some of those bases are slightly awry. I may return to that point later. It was also a pleasure to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) talk about Bangladesh, partly because the all-party parliamentary climate change group of the Westminster Parliament is currently conducting an inquiry jointly with the Bangladeshi Parliament's all-party climate change group. We hope to publish our report just in time for Copenhagen.

It has been said many times this afternoon that the Copenhagen process seemed likely to move-in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) during climate change questions this morning-at the pace of an arthritic sloth. We have a cartload of low expectations from a conference that was previously billed as the last chance saloon. Once the negotiations started in earnest-once the poker game had begun-all the high-flown expressions of ambition and aspiration seem to have been blown out of the window. Now that people have been asked to put their chips on the table, we find that those chips appear to be non-existent. In the words of President Obama, COP 15 is now merely a "significant step".
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Others have referred to it as merely a window of opportunity, but in my view that should probably read "widow of opportunity". It certainly seems likely to prove a missed opportunity.

As I said in an intervention earlier, in Barcelona this week the African group engaged in what some described as a walk-out and others termed a difference of opinion which caused them not to attend a meeting. In any event, the fact is that they are extremely disappointed that the annexe 1 countries are not coming up with the numbers: the chips on the table. One wonders why we should expect the African continent, or many other developing regions, to have any trust in our promises, given that-as we have seen in recent days-the European Union, while still making these great promises, has found it so difficult to deliver.

The United States, thankfully, is moving at quite a rapid pace to escape the eight years of total inactivity on climate change that occurred under George W. Bush, but what it is offering seems to me to be far too little.

The headline figure of the Waxman-Markey Bill appears to be a 4 per cent. cut in carbon emissions, against a 1990 baseline, by 2020. Given that a 5 per cent. global cut was talked about at Kyoto, the United States ambition must be set in context; it is not high enough. Even though that over-1,000-page Bill, which contains many other very good measures, has now slipped through the House of Representatives with the slenderest of margins, the overall ambition seems minimal. If the Americans do not increase their ambitions, I cannot understand why the Chinese would want to put their chips on the table. In those circumstances, why on earth would the European Union want to pursue its higher intended budgets? There are competition issues, and many business lobbies would exercise a great deal of sway over that.

What does all the delay mean? What does it amount to? Scientists are already talking about us being committed to a 2.4° increase in temperature, even if we stop all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions today. Our commitment, of course, is to try to contain the increase to less than 2°. Professor Schellnhuber, who is Angela Merkel's climate change adviser and a main member of the IPCC, has illustrated how serious this problem is. He said that if emissions peak in 2010-next year-we will need an annual cut of 2 per cent. if we are to halve global emissions by 2050, relative to 1990. If the peak occurs in 2015, which is when the IPCC says that we should reach it, the annual cut required increases to 3.6 per cent. If we peak in 2020, which is the most likely possibility in the mind of a realistic optimist, that translates into a 6 per cent. annual cut in greenhouse gas emissions. If the peak happens in 2025, which is perhaps bordering on the pessimistic, the figure is 12 per cent. If we go to 2030, which is not that far away, the annual cut is 22 per cent. Those figures are horrendous however we look at them. Lord Stern has pointed out that what we are trying to do is more demanding than even the accidental reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that take place in any recession.

Mr. Graham Stuart: Irrespective of whether the peak happens in 2015 or 2020, does the hon. Gentleman think that it is realistic to believe that the required emissions cuts can be made when no country has managed more than about 1 per cent., or at most 2 per cent., even in the case of Russia when its industries collapsed?

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Colin Challen: That would call for the most radical transformation of our economy. Many people are working on that, but they are still on the fringe, perhaps in the way that people who spoke about climate change were on the fringe 30 years ago. I do not necessarily include Margaret Thatcher, but I bet that some people in her party thought that she was a bit on the fringe when talking about climate change to the United Nations and making a big issue of it. She should obviously get credit for that. Organisations such as the New Economics Foundation, the Green New Deal Group, which includes quite a number of people, and other campaigns show that we could start the transformation far more quickly if we had the political will.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: The hon. Gentleman will find that the Conservative party is hardly on the fringe and that the low-carbon economy paper that we published earlier this year is an excellent blueprint, which I commend to him, if we want to move quickly to such an economy.

Colin Challen: I am always fascinated by cast-iron guarantees, so I shall look forward to reading that document as soon as possible.

I want now to turn to our plans. The Committee on Climate Change has been bold in the recommendations in its first annual report to Parliament. I hope that, as with the Kelly report, we will adopt the CCC's entire recommendations without equivocation. That would call for a pretty massive transformation. However, the CCC still has a somewhat optimistic bias in its reading of the models. It is talking about projected annual carbon savings of 2 to 3 per cent., which is well beyond what we have managed in the past, without the assistance of a recession. We should carefully consider its recommendations, but also accept that they might be an optimistic basis on which to proceed.

So far, what are the grounds for optimism in terms of delivering some of these changes? In the context of our Labour Government's overall economic investment strategy to get us out of recession, one bank assessment stated that the green component of the industrial strategy is about 7 per cent. In South Korea, it is 10 times greater. That tells us something about the difference between us, in that the South Koreans still plan their economy, rather than simply leaving it to the ravages of the marketplace.

The Government have been open and honest about where we are potentially heading and about the impacts of global warming in various regions around the world, as the maps that have appeared on the Table before us illustrate. The Committee on Climate Change says that even if all its plans come to fruition-which is a big ask-we still have only a 44 per cent. chance of success. Having recently heard more of the science-and we are halfway through an IPCC review period, so still more of it is emerging-it is clear that a 4° increase in temperature is on the cards. That will, of course, lead to different temperature changes in different parts of the world: in the Arctic region, perhaps by 8° to 10°, and it might be of a similar order in equatorial regions. We are obviously in a mess, and very swift action is required to get us out of it.

Sadly-my Front-Bench colleagues might anticipate my next remarks, and this is where I depart from the prognosis of the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal-we seem to want to adopt technologies that
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cannot deliver in time. Does anybody really expect either carbon capture and storage or nuclear technologies to deliver a single new green watt of electricity before, let us say, 2025? We are promised a new nuclear power station by 2017. Well, if neither the Finns nor the French can do it, are we really going to do it? I cannot see that happening. Let us say that the first will come on stream in 2025; then we will have to wait for the replacements to be overtaken before we start getting the new nuclear electricity. When will that happen-in 2030 or 2035? This is not a solution to the problem that will arise if emissions have not peaked and then started to reduce by 2025, because we will then have to make 12 per cent. reductions every year. Nuclear does not help us get to the peak point and neither does CCS-although I admit that, given the Indian and Chinese contexts, we have to confront the need for CCS. However, I think we could leapfrog its use in this country, while possibly still developing the technology.

I had an exchange in the Environmental Audit Committee on Tuesday with some representatives of the CCS industry. I put it to them that they are playing a blinder on the Government. In the first phase of the EU emissions trading scheme, the power generators made billions of pounds of windfall profit from the ETS free allocation of credits. They did not spend a penny on CCS, yet now they come cap in hand to the Government asking for a few hundred million quid to bail them out and help them cope with that massive investment, which they say their shareholders cannot afford. I urge the Government to look very carefully at the power generators' arguments and to pin them down.

The same practice should apply to the nuclear industry. An excellent document called "Nuclear subsidies", which is available on, reveals the full extent of the nuclear subsidies. One of the biggest is the industry's unlimited insurance, which the taxpayer would have to pick up if something went seriously wrong. However, if the nuclear industry had to pay for it itself, it would force the price of electricity up far beyond the highest price we are anticipating paying for the brand- new renewable technologies. As they are rolled out on a larger scale, the price of those technologies will come down and down, but that is not true of the nuclear industry, whose costs will go up and up-not just the cost of uranium, but all the other costs, not least the insurance and the extra costs of having to deal with proliferation.

In conclusion, the Government have shown leadership internationally. I, too, believe that they have a lot more to do on delivering concrete, practical examples of progress on the ground. It is wrong to suggest that nuclear power and CCS are panaceas, because even if they are supported, they cannot be introduced in time-at least, that is the view of the IPCC's 2007 report, which I am sure will be superseded by a 2011 report showing that things are worse. I plead with my Front-Bench colleagues: next time they have people from the coal industry, the nuclear industry or the power generators knocking on their door, tell 'em where to shove off.

2.55 pm

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): May I draw the House's attention to my entry in the Register of Members' Interests? I wish to return to the theme of the £6 million advertising campaign on the television which shows a father reading bedtime fairy
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stories to his little girl. I do not know whether it was a Freudian slip on the part of Ministers to plant in viewers' minds the suggestion that these alarmist stories that puppies would die, that baby rabbits would drown and that English towns would be swept away under water were fairy stories, but that is what they seem to have done. I say that because, although nobody in the House seems to wish to reflect on it, the fact is that fewer people in Britain than in any other country believe in the importance of global warming. That is despite the fact that our Government and our political class-predominantly-are more committed to it than their counterparts in any other country in the world. It is right and proper that we should reflect on that detachment between the people of this country and their leaders, and it is sad that those who have spoken in this debate so far have refused to do so.

The latest Pew survey-this survey is carried out across the world every year- shows that only 15 per cent. of people in this country take seriously, or are seriously concerned about, the prospect of climate change and almost half believe that nothing can be done. On the latter point, the corresponding figure worldwide is much lower-it is less than 40 per cent.-and on the former, the figure is much higher in most other countries, including the United States of America. Although my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) gave his customary attack on the American people for their obscurantism, he ought to reflect, as we all ought to do, on the fact that the British people rate the issue of climate change less seriously than even the American people do.

The second bit of evidence to cite is the exhibition that has been going on at the Science museum, which purports to give people the facts about climate change. At the end, people are asked to sign up; they are asked-yes or no-whether having heard the facts, they want to send the message to the Government that they must take serious action about climate change. People were responding to that survey after they had been through the museum and seen the graphic evidence presented in the most persuasive way possible by the alarmists. By a ratio of almost 6:1, the noes, who said that they did not believe in climate change and did not want to warn the Government, outweighed the yeses. Surely that, too, is something on which this House should reflect; I am surprised that we do not. Above all, the Government should reflect on why they have been so singularly incapable of carrying the British public with them and why their arguments have cut such little ice-I hope that I may use that phrase.

Mr. Graham Stuart: I did not know about the Science museum numbers, which are truly shocking. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that illustrates that preaching at people, trying to be divisive and trying to pretend that anybody who disagrees or who has any doubts or scepticism should be treated as though they are fundamentally and obviously wrong, is counterproductive? We need to engage in constructive discussion and dialogue with everyone and not to preach. That will carry more people over to accept the risks, as I see it, of climate change, on which my right hon. Friend's views might be slightly different from mine.

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Mr. Lilley: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The alarmism and the overstatement have caused the problem. As a group of scientists, including the former chief scientist, have recently warned, alarmist overstatement-a refusal to acknowledge the difficulties and uncertainties-is bad for getting the message over and has a counterproductive effect.

When I raised the matter with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz), he said-as did other people who prompted him-that it was all because of people like me. I would love to believe that I and a handful of others had such silver-tongued eloquence that we were able, with the minimal exposure we are given, to have converted the British people to a degree of scepticism. I do not want to convert them to scepticism about the science. The science is not a fairy tale. The basic science is that if the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is doubled, before the feedbacks are considered, that will increase the surface temperature of the atmosphere by 1° C. That is the scientific analysis that any physicist will support. If that higher temperature were to result in more water vapour in the atmosphere, which it does not seem to have done, that would raise the temperature by another 2° C. A doubling of CO2 could have the direct greenhouse effect of raising the temperature by up to 2° C.

The Government and the alarmists have to concoct a lot of feedbacks that so far have not manifested themselves to predict that in future we will see far higher rises in temperature from a given increase in CO2 than we have in the past. I am neither a denier of the science nor an alarmist. I am a lukewarmist, if one likes-

Colin Challen: That makes a change.

Mr. Lilley: It does. It is unusual for me-

Frank Dobson: You are a global lukewarmist.

Mr. Lilley: I am a global lukewarmist, and I take seriously-

Mr. Gummer: A sort of sceptic, really.

Mr. Lilley: A sort of sceptic, yes. Unlike my right hon. Friend, who is simply credulous.

A lot of fairy stories are attached to and latched on to a genuine scientific concern. The first fairy tale, which the Government foster, is the idea that there is total consensus in science at the alarmist end of the spectrum. The key to the science of global warming and climate change is physics. One can study the physics of global warming without having much knowledge of meteorology, but one cannot study meteorology without studying physics, someone said-and I do not repeat that just because I happen to have studied physics at Cambridge.

A recent controversy in the American Physical Society proves pretty clearly that there is no consensus among physicists, at least, about extreme versions of the theories. It was sparked off when the committee of the APS was persuaded by the great and the good to sign up to a statement that the evidence for the more alarmist views of anthropogenic global warming was

The committee issued that statement without consulting the society's members, which sparked off a revolt, and 160 senior physicists-members of the American Physical
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Society-wrote a letter publicly disowning that statement and suggesting that it should be replaced with a more moderate statement, saying that

It went on:

climate change.

The statement was signed by a lot of serious scientists. I am going to take the House's time and list some of them, but I shall read out only those who are professors of physics. They include the professor of physics at the university of North Carolina, the professor of physics at Rutgers university, the professor of physics at Princeton university, the professor and chair of the physics department at Bernidji state university, the professor of chemical physics at the university of Medina, the professor of physics at the university of California, the professor and chair of the physics department at the George Washington university, the professor of physics at the university of Rochester, the professor of engineering physics at the university of Virginia, the professor of physics at the university of Washington, the professor of physics at Santa Clara university, the professor of physics at Colorado state university, the professor of the physics of geological processes at the university of Oslo, the professor of the department of chemistry and physics at the William Patterson university, the professor of physics at the Ivar Giaever institute-who won the Nobel prize-and another professor in the university of Virginia's department of physics.

The list goes on: the professor of physics at the university at Hatfield, another professor of physics at Princeton university, the professor of physics at the university of Connecticut, another professor of physics from Washington and yet another from the university of Rochester, which seems to be a hotbed of scepticism. A professor of physics and astronomy-

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. This is taking quite a proportion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Perhaps it would be better to say to the House that the list will be available in Library.

Mr. Lilley: With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the list will be available in Hansard. I have only three more to go, but I want to point out to those hon. Members who say persistently that only a handful of mavericks disagree, that, in fact, a lot of serious professors at serious universities do so.

With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall add the last few: the professor of physics at the university of California, the professor of physics, astronomy and geophysics at Connecticut college, the professor of physics at Tuft's university, and the professor of physics at Midwestern university. There are rather more than I thought, I do apologise. The professor of physics-

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Perhaps the House has got the idea, given what the right hon. Gentleman said was the point that he was trying to make.

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