LORD LAWSON: BRITISH GLOBAL WARMING BILL IS "THE MOST ABSURD BILL EVER"
Excerpt from a speech in the House of Lords by the Right Honourable Lord Lawson of Blaby, on 17 November 2008
My Lords, the Minister has given an excellent summary of what we have to discuss here. Let me say just two things. The first is that, as many noble Lords may know, I have taken an interest in this issue for some time. Indeed, I have even written a book on the subject which, I am glad to say, has already been translated into two European languages and three more foreign editions are on the way. It is possible that I have had slightly more influence in that way on affairs than by speaking in this House.
That is not the only reason why I have not spoken previously in this House on the Bill. The other reason is that I felt that it was unbecoming for an unbeliever to take part in a religious service, which is what all this is really about.
Nevertheless, we have the amendments that come back from the Commons to us today. The Bill will go down in history, and future generations will see it, as the most absurd Bill that this House and Parliament as a whole as ever had to examine, and it has now become more absurd with the increase from 60 per cent to 80 per cent. I should like to address as briefly as I can-because I do not propose to speak on any subsequent occasion on this subject- why I think that the Bill is so absurd.
Let us pretend that the planet is warming. We know, of course, that it is not. The figures published each year and, indeed, monthly, by the Met Office or the Hadley Centre, which is a department of the Met Office in association with the climate research unit of the University of East Anglia, show without any doubt that there has been no warming so far this century at all. Some people say that there has been a cooling but, although that has been the slight trend, I think that the margin for error is so great that I would not press that, but there has certainly been no warming.
The majority of climate scientists do not think that if there were a warming, it would be a disaster. Nevertheless, it is possible that warming will resume. The majority of climate scientists believe that warming will resume. I am completely agnostic on that; I do not know. Maybe it will, maybe it will not. The complete standstill this century so far was certainly totally unpredicted by all the elaborate computer models that the scientists use. That is not surprising. The climate is an extremely complex system.
What lies behind this? It was implicit in what the Minister said, although he did not spell it out on this occasion, that by taking this massive step of virtually complete decarbonisation of our economy by 2050 in a mandatory way—something that no other country has done for good reason, because no other country has been so foolish, nor do other countries have the slightest intention of going in this way, but I will come to that in a moment—we in the United Kingdom are giving a global lead that other countries will follow.
To understand that, we have to go back briefly to the G8 meeting last year. At that meeting, Europe, led by Germany and the United Kingdom, sought to isolate the United States in its opposition to binding commitments to cut back carbon dioxide emissions by proposing that the whole of the G8 should agree to a 50 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. I can understand why people are not dying to support anything that President George W Bush supports, but the plan to isolate the United States backfired horribly. Europe was isolated when we got to the G8 summit. The other member countries, Japan, Canada and Russia, all accepted the United States’ position and therefore there was no agreement on a 50 per cent binding commitment to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Fast forward from that, what has happened? Far from making any headway in persuading the rest of the world, even Europe is now backing off.
I remind the Minister of the original plan, the unilateral European cut. We are committing ourselves to a unilateral cut really, irrespective of what any other country does. After all, we account for less than 2 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions and that is falling. Therefore, it makes sense only if we can persuade the rest of the world to go along with this.
Even our supporters in Europe are busy backing off. The unilateral cut of 20 per cent by 2020, agreed to by the European Union—with a little teaser that, if the rest of the world joined in, we would go up to 30 per cent—has been completely abandoned. It was never a binding commitment because you can bind only individual member countries and the individual countries of the union had not agreed—we had but the others had not—to go along with their share in the 20 per cent cut. The seven accession states of central and eastern Europe, plus Italy, have now said that there is definitely no way that they are going to go along with this. The European Union has agreed that this should be looked at again. Nothing will happen. It can only be agreed unanimously and will be looked at again in December this year, after the Poznan meeting, which I hope the Minister will grace with his presence. It will be an educational event for him.
Not only have those countries said that they will not go along with it, but Germany has always had a slightly equivocal position, because, in addition to ostensibly being very keen on this policy, it subsidises its coal industry more than the rest of the European Union put together. Indeed that is contrary to European Union law and it has to secure a waiver from European law to enable it do that, for which it fights to the death, and successfully so far. However, the German Government, have said that energy-intensive sectors must be exempted from the European emissions trading system. Indeed, an official government spokesman said only the other day that we have got to prevent companies being threatened by climate protection requirements. That makes nonsense of the whole policy. If Germany is saying that, the others will go the same way. Therefore, we are in the position of being completely on our own.
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