Limiting Global Temperature Increase - Question

– in the House of Lords am 3:39 pm ar 13 Rhagfyr 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Llafur 3:39, 13 Rhagfyr 2023

To ask His Majesty’s Government whether (1) the position of the OPEC states, and (2) the lobbying of fossil fuel companies, at the Dubai COP 28 have made it more difficult to achieve the goal of limiting global temperature increase by 2050 to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

My Lords, the UK Government do not comment on the positions of different groups and countries. The UK worked tirelessly with all parties to push for an ambitious outcome at COP 28 that keeps 1.5 degrees within reach, and we welcome the deal reached this morning, which is the first time that there has been a global agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. It maintains the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Llafur

My Lords, I join with the Minister in accepting that the current draft is a darn sight better than the dreadful draft presented two days ago, but it is still, sadly, deficient. In the run-up to the COP, we not only saw the petrostates and fossil-fuel companies trying to derail any reference to fossil fuels in the agreement; we also saw the IPCC and the scientists warning us that we were well off the Paris trajectory towards 1.5 degrees, to which we are all supposed to be signed up. Perhaps we also ought to acknowledge that any improvement due to the UK Government’s intervention was down to our own Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Benyon, with the actual leader of the British delegation being called back from saving the world to saving the Prime Minister. Is not this Government’s moral authority to persuade smaller, more vulnerable and poorer nations to adopt a net-zero policy sadly undermined by our continued licensing of oil and gas extraction in the North Sea and other retreats from our green policies? Can the Minister give us a date for abandoning those polices?

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

There was a whole series of questions in the noble Lord’s statement. This was an international agreement, involving almost 200 countries. Is it perfect? Is it everything we would have wanted? No, but it is certainly a great achievement by our extremely hard-working negotiating team. I do not agree with the noble Lord on the second part of his question about licensing and increased production in the North Sea. Even if they come on stream, the output in the North Sea will still continue to decline and we are still committed to phasing out oil and gas production.

Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Ceidwadwyr

Will my noble friend reflect that it is not just carte blanche? There will be situations where an oil company finds a new field, perhaps like the one 200 miles north of the Falklands, where the quality of the oil is far better than the oil that we produce in the North Sea, and it would make economic sense to substitute one for the other in the future. Then at some stage, that field will be reduced. It is not absolutely static, is it? We now want a situation where the industry decreases but at the same time improves the product.

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

My noble friend is right, in that different circumstances will apply to many countries, but we are very clear about the trajectory that we are on. We need to bear in mind that this is a transition. It cannot happen overnight, but we are clear on the direction in which we are travelling.

Photo of Earl Russell Earl Russell Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

My Lords, do the Government now regret their decision to recall our Climate Change Minister 6,831 miles to London, putting party before planet? As a nation, we were not adequately represented at the crucial point in these negotiations. Is it not the truth of the matter that the Conservatives have prioritised their own local difficulties over crucial negotiations to tackle the climate emergency?

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I am sorry, my Lords, but that really is a nonsensical question. Graham Stuart is a Member of Parliament and has duties to perform in Parliament. The negotiating team were in constant contact with him, all the time. He flew back out to COP last night. Our own Minister, my noble friend Lord Benyon, was there as well, occupying the UK chair, alongside the fantastic team of negotiators, who held the pen for many of the negotiations and secured some far-reaching commitments in line with UK’s policy objectives.

Photo of Baroness Boycott Baroness Boycott Crossbench

Now that we have reached an agreement in Dubai, is the Minister sill completely confident that the UK will reach our target of a 68% reduction on NDC by the end of 2030? As has been mentioned often in this House, we have rolled back on some of our commitments, such as those on electric vehicles and various other things, and I cannot believe they will not have an impact on that target. Can I have the Minister’s reassurance that he will publish the Government’s evidence base that the things which have recently taken place, in terms of rollback, will not affect the crucial outcome?

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I can happily tell the noble Baroness that we remain committed to all our targets.

Photo of The Bishop of Oxford The Bishop of Oxford Bishop

My Lords, I assume the Minister will be aware of the large amount of lobbying taking place, not only at the COP but around the COP through social media. One oil company is estimated to have spent $1.8 million on TikTok videos alone, seen by millions of people across the world, and helping to spread climate disinformation. Does the Minister think the Government should be doing more through the Counter-Disinformation Unit to challenge climate disinformation, given the scale of what is happening and the risk to the world of the failure to curb emissions?

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I understand the point that the right reverend Prelate is making, but one person’s disinformation is another person’s free choice and free speech. There is always robust debate about all of these issues. There will be continue to be robust political debate about it, and I think that is right in a democratic society. We are very clear on the policy that we should be following and that we are committed to. We are committed to net zero; it is a legal obligation. The Government are committed to that trajectory.

Photo of Baroness Sheehan Baroness Sheehan Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

My Lords, the agreed wording of COP 28 in the small hours of this morning does not go far enough, given that scientific consensus is strongly in favour of a phase-out of fossil fuels. Nevertheless, this is what we have signed up to. Can the Minister say whether the Government will publish a plan to say how they will meet our commitment to

“Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just … and equitable manner, accelerating”

—and that is a key word—

“action in this critical decade”.

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

We are into semantics and wording, but a transition away with clear deadlines is, in our view, a phase-out in all but name. It is not the language that we would have preferred, but in a multilateral negotiation there has to be compromise. We are very clear on the trajectory we are following. We have published numerous plans about our transition. We are accelerating the rollout of renewables and reducing our use of oil and gas, and that will continue.

Photo of Baroness Blake of Leeds Baroness Blake of Leeds Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Net Zero), Shadow Spokesperson (Business and Trade)

My Lords, I too recognise today’s COP agreement as an important moment for the world. It is the first time there has been a global commitment to a transition away from fossil fuels. There will always be those vested interests pushing back, as there was at COP. The reality is that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees still requires much to change. Despite the Minister’s attempts to reassure us, it was disappointing that, when their leadership was most needed at COP, our Government put their party infighting first. To keep 1.5 degrees alive, they will need to do better and lead by example. Therefore, as a result of the statement released this morning, what plans do the Government have to show strong international leadership and to make sure that we bring in the changes of direction needed? Are there any plans for changes at this moment in time or not?

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I repeat the answer I gave earlier: these statements demean the noble Baroness. The UK provided fantastic leadership. We have an official, Alison Campbell, who co-chaired a number of the panels. She was the penholder on a number of these negotiations. We succeeded in all of our aims. There was robust political leadership; Graham Stuart was there. For a lot of the time, our own Minister, my noble friend Lord Benyon, was there. There were many other Ministers who were also there. There was no gap in UK representation or in the agreements that we achieved.

Photo of Baroness Fox of Buckley Baroness Fox of Buckley Non-affiliated

My Lords, whatever about the lobbyists from the fossil fuel companies, do the Government have any assessment of the cost in terms of CO2 used to travel to Dubai, or in terms of public money paid to facilitate the tens of thousands of pro-net zero lobbyists, NGOs and consultants who attended COP 28? Can the Minister reflect on the impact for developing countries of not using fossil fuels when they are so essential for enabling their citizens to achieve the prosperity of western economies?

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

On this issue of lobbying, tens of thousands of people were at COP, representing a whole series of different shades of opinion. Of course, there were lobbyists from all sides, but that does not mean you have to agree with the position that they take. A wide range of views were represented; I said to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, when he asked me something similar last week, that you listen to the views, and there are lots of people having meetings around it, lobbying groupings and so on, but the negotiation is done by committed teams of officials who probably do not watch any of the TikTok videos that the right reverend Prelate referred to. However, as I said earlier, the needs of countries are also different in different environments. We are fortunate, being a relatively wealthy country, that we can transition away from fossil fuels. It is much more difficult for some third-world countries, which is why we are offering them considerable amounts of finance—we have £11.6 billion of international climate finance with which to help them with the transition. We are leading on initiatives such as the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which helps developing countries to move away from coal-fired power stations as well. So we are taking a range of different initiatives in collaboration and co-operation with a number of different other countries.