Climate Change Act

- Tuesday, 10th September 2013

 

CO2

Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): The hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) based much of his contribution on what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said, but he ended by saying that the costs of action were far less than the benefits.

 

That is not what the IPPC says. It says that analyses of the costs and benefits of mitigation indicate that they are broadly comparable in magnitude, so it could not establish an emissions pathway or stabilisation level at which the benefits exceeded the cost. The hon. Gentleman's messianic certainty is not based on what the IPPC said.

 

Governments make their worst decisions when both sides are united for the simple reason that no one exercises the proper function of scrutiny, which is what happened in 2008. The passage of the Climate Change Bill was a perfect example, and the measure became the most expensive, most ambitious and most uncertainly based legislation that the House has introduced during my time in Parliament. It was introduced with no discussion of cost. I was the only person who considered the impact assessment before the debate, because the Table Office told me that I was the only person to have taken a copy of it. It showed that the likely cost of the then Government's measures, based on their own figures, and even excluding transition costs and the cost of driving industry overseas, were twice the maximum benefit. That was not discussed at any stage during proceedings on the Bill, not even when, in a spasm of self-flagellation, the target for reducing CO2 was increased from the 60% on which the costing had been made to 80%.

 

When the Bill was enacted, the Government produced a revised estimate of the costs and doubled them, but were stunned when I pointed out that the costs had exceeded the benefits and raised the benefits tenfold. From almost nowhere, they found another £1 trillion of benefits that they had previously overlooked. I can claim to be the greatest benefactor of humanity ever known because I caused £1 trillion to come from nowhere. That provides an idea of the Alice-in-Wonderland world in which such calculations are performed.

 

The Bill was introduced after scant discussion of the feasibility of decarbonising by 80% in 40 years, yet every other transition from one fuel to another—from wind to coal, from coal to oil, from oil and gas to nuclear—has taken far longer or been much less complete over a similar period. All were driven by a step reduction in the cost of cheap fuel driving out a less reliable and more costly fuel. However, the Climate Change Act 2008 requires us to replace cheap fossil fuels with energy sources that are at least twice as expensive and less reliable, which will be difficult to do; it is like driving water uphill.

 

So far, we have replaced 4% of our energy sources with renewables, against our target of replacing 15% by 2020. In other words, we are just over a quarter of the way there, and one twentieth of the way to our 2050 target. Other things being equal, the extra cost of moving to renewables will be four times higher in 2020 and 20 times higher in 2050.

 

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): I hope that my right hon. Friend will not mind if I congratulate him on making such a persuasive case for the repeal of the Act without even going near the science.

 

Mr Lilley: Yes, but I am just about to.

 

The Act was introduced with no consideration of the uncertainties. Projections from climate models were taken as if they were infallible. In 2007, just before the Act was introduced, the Met Office Hadley Centre said:

 

"We are now using the system to predict changes out to 2014. By the end of this period, the global average temperature is expected to have risen by around 0.3° C compared to 2004, and half of the years after 2009 are predicted to be hotter than the current record hot year, 1998."

 

As we know, the pause that was already well established in 2008 has continued since then. There has been no 0.3° C rise, and all the years since then have been cooler than 1998.

 

I asked the previous Government in 2006 how long the pause would have to continue before the Met Office amended its model to take the reality into account. They sent people from the Met Office to come and see me in my office, and we had an interesting discussion. However, the answer was—this answer is also in Hansard—that they would not alter the model, because the model is right. If the facts are rebutted then, in the words of Hegel, so much the worse for the facts. That has been people's attitude about it all. It is not science, because it is not refutable.

 

That does not mean to say that the greenhouse effect does not exist; I am a physicist by training, and of course it exists. The question is: how big is it? If it is of a modest size and it has been offset over the past 15 years by natural variations, is it not possible that in the previous 20 years, when there was a rise in temperature, some of that was due to the opposite movement in natural factors, adding to and amplifying any minor global warming due to CO2?

 

Mr Redwood: Does my right hon. Friend agree with the point that I was trying to make earlier to the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), who seemed to be unwilling to consider it? If one wishes to establish the impact of human CO2, one needs to understand all the other factors driving climate change, which might be up or down, and be able to quantify them. Otherwise, one cannot calculate the human effect.

 

Mr Lilley: Absolutely. When people say that there is a scientific consensus that all or the majority of heating that has occurred over the recent decades is due to man-made emissions, there is in fact no such consensus. If one drills down into the questions people ask, one will see that the questions in the first study included, "Do you believe that man-made emissions contribute to warming?" Yes, I do. "Do you believe that that is largely due to CO2?" Yes, I do. However, that does not make me an alarmist, and it does not justify anyone else pretending that every scientist is an alarmist—they are not.

 

The Act is not just the most expensive, impractically ambitious and uncertainly based piece of legislation that I have ever known; it is unique in being legally binding and unilateral. No other country has followed us down that route. Since we went down that route, Canada and Japan have resiled from Kyoto, and Australia has just abandoned its carbon tax. It is time we looked critically at the Act, repealed or revised it, and do not allow ourselves to be slavishly, legally bound to continue doing something that no longer accords with the evidence or goes along with what the rest of the world is doing.

 

 

 

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