By Tim Montgomerie
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I ask the question because MEPs have just rejected increasing the EU's emission reduction targets unilaterally from 20% by 2020 to an eyewatering 30% by 2020 (the reduction is from 1990 levels). Votes from Tory MEPs made the difference.
The British Government - like the governments of France and Germany - had supported the commitment to deeper cuts but MEPs from the EPP and our own ECR had opposed unilateral action on the basis that the EU acting alone would mean we would continue to export industrial capacity to developing countries which weren't willing to sign up to such controls.
"Conservative MEPs voted for a 30% EU target, "provided that conditions are right". We remain opposed to a unilateral EU increase, without other industrial nations, because of the effect on competiveness of UK and EU companies."
That "conditions are right" clause is crucial. Unless China, India and other competitor economies are willing to sign up to verifiable cuts in their own carbon footprints the realists - including our own MEPs and many from, for example, Poland - are not going to handicap European manufacturers.
ConHome's surveys of Tory candidates show that our MPs are probably as sceptical about going alone on climate change as our MEPs but whipped by the Coalition they are under more pressure not to say so.
By way of footnote, over at LibDemVoice Chris Davies MEP is complaining that Tory MEPs weren't willing to back the Huhne/Coalition line that unilateral 30% cuts were essential. Mr Davies should reflect on his own support for the end of Britain's EU rebate and for new EU taxes before he complains about anyone else's failure to support Coalition policy.
East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer has spoken in a plenary session on the Florenz Report to condemn climate change alarmism.
Here is his speech:
Daniel Hannan - MEP for South East England - has spoken out on EU hypocrisy over climate change.
Mr Hannan is to be highly commended for managing to combine doggedness with elegance - it is easy for people who are sound on Europe to be frightful bores (and boors). It is well worth watching his short speech in full.
Small businesses and hospitals have been exempted from the Emissions Trading Scheme and carbon capture and storage technology projects have secured funding. But a Conservative amendment - to make coal-fired power stations capture their CO2 in order to be approved - was defeated.
Mr Bowis comments:
"We give two cheers for the Climate and Energy Package MEPs have agreed, Conservative MEPs have striven for ambitious measures to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
We are disappointed that Europe's governments, including Britain, failed to provide a lead to the world and agreed to water down the proposals, particularly on emissions trading. However we have supported the package so that industry has greater certainty and can begin to meet the challenges we have set. We can look to the Copenhagen Climate Change conference next December with the tools in place to reduce the greenhouse gases that threaten us.
It is disappointing that the Emissions Trading Scheme has been watered down in key areas, such as the amount of emission allowances to be allocated by auctioning and by the complex methodology agreed for allocating free allowances. It is also sad that governments would not commit to earmarking some of the revenues generated from auctioning for tackling climate change. That money will now disappear into the Chancellor's coffers rather than supporting eco-innovation and new technologies, supporting adaptation in developing countries and protecting forests around the world.
There have been welcome improvements on Renewable Energy, where our demand for rigorous sustainability criteria on biofuels has been agreed.
It is time to act on our commitment to cut emissions by at least 20% by 2020. It is a start. At Copenhagen we must set higher targets for the future."
It is noteworthy that Mr Bowis accepts so readily that limiting carbon emissions is worth such a cost. It is understandable to worry about money going into "the Chancellor's coffers" when Labour have been so profligate in the past - but is eco-innovation and public funding of new technologies a good use of taxpayers' money? Over to you ...
“Scottish Conservatives support a Scottish Climate Change Bill with meaningful targets for reductions in carbon and other emissions. We look forward to scrutinising this Bill in Committee.
“We particularly welcome provision within the Bill for Scottish Ministers to bring forward mandatory annual targets which are essential if we are to make serious progress towards the 80% figure. However it is important that the Parliament is able to properly scrutinise this secondary legislation, which is why it is a good idea to set up a Scottish Committee on Climate Change to advise on these targets.
“It remains important that this Scottish Bill is developed alongside the UK Climate Change Bill, especially with regard to the Scottish targets on aviation and shipping.”
The UK Government has set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, which the Conservative Party officially supports.
There are still some hardy Conservative critics of conventional climate change wisdom in the House of Commons. On Wednesday Mr Lilley introduced a debate on the Stern Review in Westminster Hall. (Lord Stern's main conclusion was that one per cent of global GDP per year is needed to combat climate change. He has since revised that upwards to two per cent.)
The debate makes for a fascinating read. Many of us feel hopelessly confused about the whole issue of climate change. A good speech from an able politician - replete with evidence and articulated clearly - really can help advance one's understanding of a subject. Many of us moan about soundbite politics and inane remarks from MPs. It is striking wading through Hansard to see just how often they make excellent, detailed and substantive speeches.
That preamble serves in part as an explanation for covering the debate's highlights at some length.
Mr Lilley cast doubt on the standards of the Stern Review:
"In his review, Professor Stern makes much of the importance of the peer review process, but his report was not subjected to peer review, and it is time that it was, or at least to a common or garden review in the House."
He later added:
"The simple fact is that since the beginning of this century, the average global temperature has flatlined; indeed, over the past 18 months it has fallen back and, according to the satellite measurements of temperature, it is now basically back at the level it was in 1979, when such measurements started to be taken. Professor Stern ignores that and, throughout his report, refers to continual global warming. However, global warming has not continued. Even Adair Turner, who on all other topics is a model of objectivity, ignores recent developments when discussing climate change, in the section of his letter to the Treasury summarising recent developments. The facts show that the world has not been heating over the past decade. The response is, “So much the worse for the facts.” While we were passing the Climate Change Bill, based on the assumption that the world was becoming hotter, I mentioned in a point of order that it was snowing outside in October for the first time in 70 years. I was told that I should realise that exceptional cold was a consequence of global warming—so much the worse for the facts.
The recent period of global cooling does not itself disprove the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a scientific fact. Other things being equal, an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will raise the temperature. However, the recent period of cooling does suggest that either manmade global warming may be smaller or that the impact of other factors may be greater than climate models have so far assumed. In those circumstances, the climate models should be adjusted; the facts should not be ignored."
Yesterday the House of Commons continued to debate the Climate Change Bill. In particular, the Government is eager that emissions from shipping and international aviation be reduced. They have not been included in the Bill's target of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, however.
Instead amendments have been introduced that would require the Government to publish regular projections for emissions from international aviation and shipping. Within five years shipping and international aviation should be included in the Government's targets or an explanation laid before Parliament as to why they have not been.
The Conservative front bench has welcomed this development. However, some Conservative MPs have dissented.
Hitchin & Harpenden MP Peter Lilley (a former Secretary of State for Social Security) offered this observation:
"In the speeches of a number of hon. Members, it has been assumed that the whole House is unanimous on the measures before us, and on the Bill that they amend or add to. Historically, the House has made its worst mistakes not when it is divided, but when it is virtually unanimous; not when it is adversarial, but when MPs switch off their critical faculties in a spasm of moral self-congratulation. My concern is that, in considering these measures, we are displaying that tendency. It is vital that we bring the House back down to earth by considering the hard costs and benefits of, and alternatives to, what is proposed and what we are doing. We have not done that very much so far in the debates in the House. Only once in Committee was mention made of the costs and benefits of what we are proposing."
Greg Clark has made his debut at the Dispatch Box as Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. The Government announced yesterday that it wants an 80 per cent cut in greenhouse gases by 2050. The Conservatives support this new target.
Mr Clark began by offering a warm welcome to his opposite number, Ed Miliband. Then he turned up the heat:
"There has been a decade-long void in the Government’s policy on energy, in which successive Ministers have looked the other way rather than addressing the issue of our future energy needs. Does the Secretary of State accept that to the intrinsic difficulties of making choices on energy have been added the consequences of a decade of indecision?"
Mr Clark stressed the importance of developing new practices and technology rather than simply buying in permits from other countries, called on the Government to fund at least three carbon capture and storage demonstration projects, said that no plant should be licensed if its emissions are worse than those of a modern gas-powered station, endorsed smart metering and urged the Government to tackle fuel poverty.
Personal remark from Tom Greeves:
"I worked with Greg Clark at Conservative Central Office. He is unfailingly courteous and modest, but combines those qualities with a razor-sharp mind that doesn't tolerate intellectual flabbiness. I am pleased for him personally, and excited that he and his special adviser Peter Franklin have a chance to prove that nice guys can thrive in politics."
But do the Conservatives have the right policies on climate change? Please discuss!