HC Deb 22 July 2004 vol 424 cc470-2
4. Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney) (Lab)

What assessment she has made of progress towards carbon dioxide emission reduction targets. [185745]

9. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con)

What progress has been made towards meeting the Kyoto carbon dioxide target. [185750]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett)

The UK remains on course to achieve its Kyoto target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2008–12. Provisional estimates suggest that greenhouse gas emissions in 2003 were about 14 per cent. below the baseline. The Government have a separate goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2010. Emissions of carbon dioxide for 2003 are provisionally estimated to be about 7 per cent. lower than in 1990.

Mr. Blizzard

Is it not the case, though, that based on the Government's own recently published energy and emissions projections, even if we meet the difficult 20 per cent. renewables target and implement all our energy efficiency policies, the 60 per cent. CO2 reduction target for 2050 will go off course in 2010 and will not be achieved? Should we not be looking at carbon capture and storage technology now, so that we can bridge that emissions gap and maintain security of supply? The only other option would be the nuclear option.

Margaret Beckett

I do not entirely accept my hon. Friend's analysis because, although I take his point that the 60 per cent. target is a challenging one, there are a number of trajectories that one could follow to reach it. There has always been a discussion about whether we ought to try to pursue a straight line path, or whether there is merit in back-end loading as, for example, the newer technologies become available, recognising that we may be able to make greater moves at a later date than we can at present. However, my hon. Friend is right that there is considerable interest in carbon abatement technology. A great deal of thought and study is going into it and I anticipate that we shall hear more of it in the not too distant future.

Mr. Amess

Does the Secretary of State agree that the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, apart from helping to eliminate fuel poverty, has made a considerable contribution to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions? Given the fact that, according to DEFRA's figures, those emissions have been going up since 1997, does she believe that the targets will be reached by 2010?

Margaret Beckett

In fact, the trend since 1997 has been downwards, although in the past couple of years there has been the fluctuation that I mentioned. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that attacking fuel poverty is the right course in itself. It also makes a considerable contribution to reducing emissions. I am sure that he knows, because he takes a great interest in such issues, that we are reviewing the effectiveness of the previous fuel poverty, or warm front, programmes and intend to produce proposals in a few months' time. I expect that he has also noticed that, thanks to the Chancellor's spending review, substantial extra resources have been allocated to tackling fuel poverty. We are hoping to publish an implementation plan for the new funding and the new proposals later in the year.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con)

Does the Secretary of State recognise that Conservative Members were encouraged when, 18 months ago, her ministerial colleague announced the energy efficiency target of a 5 million tonne reduction in carbon emissions? That figure was confirmed by the Minister with responsibility for energy efficiency, Lord Whitty. Industry was more than satisfied when the Chancellor, no less, endorsed the 5 million tonne target. The final seal of approval was put on it by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry only three months ago. Can the Secretary of State therefore explain why, after all this spin and hype, she has announced a target that is significantly lower? Does not that send completely the wrong signals to industry and to everyone who is trying to cope with the situation?

Margaret Beckett

I can understand why the hon. Gentleman reaches that view, but I assure him that he is mistaken. The figure of 5 million tonnes was very much an illustrative figure in the energy White Paper. It was never intended to be a goal or a target, but an initial indication of what was then thought might be possible—[Interruption.] Yes, I am conscious of the document that the hon. Gentleman indicates. Since the energy White Paper was produced, a great deal more detailed analysis has been carried out. That led us to conclude that 5 million is not a realistic figure, but 4.2 million would be. However, that is certainly not the wrong signal to be sending to business. The hon. Gentleman must have noticed that through the energy efficiency plan, we plan to make more savings as a result of energy efficiency than under the previous proposals. On the basis of that further, more detailed analysis, we think that although we may not be able to make quite as much of a saving from the domestic sector, we can make more of a saving from the business sector.

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