HL Deb 21 June 1999 vol 602 cc651-2

3.2 p.m.

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they are taking to achieve their energy saving objectives by the year 2010.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, we are developing a climate change programme which will enable us to meet our targets for reducing emissions. Energy efficiency will be one of the main components of the programme. Energy efficiency is already actively promoted through a range of government programmes and initiatives. These include the energy efficiency best practice programme and the Energy Saving Trust's government-funded programme to promote energy efficiency.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, although I accept that the Government are doing a great deal to improve energy efficiency, does not the noble Lord agree that there could be some confusion as a result of the variety of targets that have been set for this purpose? There are no fewer than three targets to which we are committed for reducing emissions: the Kyoto target, the EU target and the Government's own target. There is a target for stimulating the use of renewables and combined heat and power. There is a target for stimulating the efficient use of other sources of energy, including the home energy conservation scheme with which my noble friend Lady Maddock was much involved. Does not the noble Lord agree that the time may well have come when there ought to be a single energy efficiency or saving target set to which all those other targets can relate; for example, the objective to increase energy efficiency by, say, 20 per cent between 2000 and 2010?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, is correct to say that a number of targets and objectives form part of the programme, but the overall objective is clear; namely, to fulfil our Kyoto commitment in relation to the 12.5 per cent cut and to go further by meeting our own cut of 20 per cent in CO2. Other targets have to fit in with that. Were we to have a single energy efficiency target, different sectors could reasonably be expected to make different contributions towards that target. But the overall "big print" target is clear.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, is the Minister aware that some of the large London hospitals, and perhaps others throughout the country, have combined heat and power schemes which not only serve the valuable purpose of destroying dangerous waste on site but also produce power which is then reharnessed and used? That saves a great deal of money and is energy efficient. Is there any liaison between government departments to see that this kind of programme is expanded?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, we certainly would encourage consolidation of and building on the combined heat and power process to which the noble Baroness refers. My department, which has responsibility for combined heat and power, works closely with the DTI and with private industry to ensure that there are no barriers in this regard. We shall continue and intensify that work.

Lord Brookman

My Lords, does the Minister agree that many people involved in manufacturing industry are extremely concerned at the prospect of the carbon tax?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am unused to such short questions from my noble friend! I agree that there is some anxiety in relation to the climate change levy. We are discussing this matter with all sectors of industry. Nevertheless, I believe that in terms of our overall tax policy and in relation to the objectives on climate change, the proposed levy represents a significant and positive change in the burden of taxation away from "goods"—that is, labour and investment—and on to "bads"—that is, pollution. That is consistent both with our overall intent on environmental taxation and with our social and other policies. Part of that climate change levy will be redirected to exactly the kind of energy efficiency schemes which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, mentioned.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that among the worst areas for energy inefficiency are privately owned properties and the private rented sector. However, the majority of those living in those properties are elderly people, often women who are often on low incomes. Can the Minister indicate the kind of targets for which the Government are aiming in their overall programme of reducing the number of energy-inefficient buildings in this country?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, there are a number of schemes, some of which are related to those in fuel poverty who suffer disproportionately from being in energy-inefficient buildings. As noble Lords will recall., we have changed the basis for our new home energy efficiency scheme to target 4 million households with children and 3.7 million pensioner households which will be eligible for that help. Many of those people live in the kind of property to which the noble Baroness refers. In the longer term, both our additional help to local authorities to improve their building stock and our proposed changes in building regulations as regards both new and refurbished buildings will make a major, if long-term, contribution.

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