Climate change comes to the Lords

Lord Teverson

Climate change is about as big an issue as you can get. If we – that’s all of us here on planet Earth – get it wrong we suspect it will herald the end of the world as we know it. And there will be a big reverse for the human species in the process. Outside of nuclear winters, or asteroids hitting us from the skies, issues don’t get a lot bigger.

Well next week, here the Lords, we start the report stage of the Government’s climate change bill. It seems rather strange that the Government decided to introduce such a ‘flagship’ bill into the Lords rather than the Commons. We certainly congratulate their courage. In this House there will be, I’m sure, early defeats for the Government. To prove their green credentials they just might find it embarrassing to reverse them in the Commons. Changes of targets, inclusion of aviation, a limit on international credits, stronger attention when it comes to adaptation – all are possible -who knows?

But next week the voting starts. Each of our individual votes will be recorded, and they’ll be there in 50 years time to be judged by our great grandchildren as the world slips below the rising seas – or, hopefully, not.

But the real problem with this Bill is that it is simply about targets, enabling, setting up committees – and that’s it. Will it save the planet and fullfil the Government’s rhetoric? Well yes it does provide a framework for action – an important one. But not one tonne of atmospheric carbon will be saved by it alone. Indeed even its targets can be met, not by reducing the UK’s carbon output – but by buying in credits from abroad. Not so impressive.

Maybe with a few well placed and successful amendments the House of Lords really will help save the planet.

1 comment for “Climate change comes to the Lords

  1. Bedd Gelert
    24/03/2008 at 11:04 pm

    Having recently read ‘The Revenge of Gaia’, by James Lovelock, I am glad that this issue is being taken seriously at Westminster.

    A couple of points –

    1/ Whatever one thinks of Ken Livingstone, he has ‘bitten the bullet’ to try and charge people driving into the centre of London on a ‘the polluter pays’ principle. But the mayoral office relies on voters’ support, which for painful measures to do with the environment will not always be forthcoming. To what extent should the Lords adopt a kind of ‘Auntie Knows Best’ approach due to the severity of the issue, and to what extent should it rely on winning ‘hearts and minds’, and not impose draconian legislation until the public at large are ‘on board’ ??

    2/ Leaving aside the fraught debate over Heathrow expansion for the moment – could or should the Lords have a say in bringing aviation emissions within the scope of international agreements, such as Kyoto or its descendants ?? Although currently representing around 3% of emissions, this could rise to 15%.

    3/ Is there mileage in the argument that implementing the measures to offset climate change cannot, by definition, be done at a level severe enough to make a difference, whilst relying on government at a country level, and should therefore be delegated upward to supra national bodies like the EU, UN or WTO ? Will this be totally counter-productive or can the House of Lords, whose ‘members’ are not so governed by short-term political considerations make a difference?

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