HL Deb 27 February 1992 vol 536 cc383-5

3.25 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the latest target for reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, in May 1990 the Government announced that provided other countries take similar action the UK is prepared to set itself the target of returning its CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2005. This remains our target. We have set out our strategy and a first tranche of measures towards this target in the environment White Paper in which we made clear that we will improve on our target if possible.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, particularly in view of the short notice that I unavoidably gave her. Is it the case that the Secretary of State for the Environment is anxious to bring forward the reduction of CO2 emissions to the 1990 level from the year 2005 to 2000, whereas the Secretary of State for Energy and the Treasury are anxious to prevent that because they are worried about the privatisation of coal and the cost of insulation? Is it the case that the dispute was to be settled yesterday morning and, if so, what was the result?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it is not appropriate for me to refer to speculative comments in the press. However, I can go a little further than the noble Lord. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will go to Rio for the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development. It is clear that he would like to be able to sign an effective convention there. Developed countries should adopt specific commitments in the convention and perhaps stabilise emissions individually or jointly by early in the next century at 1990 levels.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, is the Minister aware that an acre of conifer trees consumes 5 tonnes of CO2 in a year and that if the Government would tighten up their forestry policy that would do as much good as some of their plans to reduce emissions?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, one of the joys of answering Questions at the Dispatch Box is that one learns so much. I believe that anything that gobbles up CO, or pollution—I learnt only recently of a reed bed which positively eats pollution—can only be of benefit to the environment.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, is there any way of measuring the volume of CO2 emitted at Question Time in your Lordships' House? If so, would that not constitute a good case for a self-denying ordinance?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am an advocate of sound scientific data. Perhaps such a topic would make a good study for someone.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, is it not agreed that one of the best ways of reducing CO2 emissions is to indulge in energy saving as much as possible? Has the Minister's department had any discussions with the green Minister at the Department of Energy? If so, what was the result of those discussions as regards the setting up of new energy-saving measures?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that energy-saving measures are a key to improving the situation. The green Ministers in all government departments, not only in the Department of Energy, are having constant discussions about ways and means of saving energy. As regards the specific manifestations of those discussions, I must refer the noble Baroness to the environment White Paper and to the follow-up document published a year later.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, following on the last supplementary question, will the noble Baroness indicate to what extent she believes that the initiatives taken at Community level on the SAVE and other programmes have contributed to the UK's objectives?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, there has been and there still is a three-year publicity campaign to raise public awareness. A definite theme of our environmental White Paper was that it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to play a part in reducing CO2 emissions.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, I note that CO2 emissions have increased in the past two years. Is the Minister aware that most experts in this sphere, including the energy committee in the other place, believe that the UK has little chance of meeting existing targets, let alone any new targets which the Secretary of State may seek with our support?

Will the Minister tell us what specific measures and policy changes the Government have in mind which will make it possible to achieve those targets? Does she accept that nothing short of a massive campaign on energy conservation will help us to achieve those targets?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, makes an extremely important point because there is pressure to improve on that target. However, the first target was set against a predictable rise in CO2 emissions which resulted from economic growth. The difficulty of improving even further on that target must go hand in hand with real measures which will cause considerable pain for government, commerce and industry and individuals.

There is in place a continuous campaign to encourage everybody to use their best efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. To that end the Government have set specific targets for government departments.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, will the noble Baroness tell the House whether, when the Secretary of State goes to New York on Monday to participate in the preparations for Rio, he will be taking with him a pledge for the reduction of CO2 emissions by the year 2000 or the year 2005?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it has never been the custom of this House to say ahead of a visit what my right honourable friend will say when visiting another country.