Bishop of Salisbury welcomes Paris climate change agreement

On 15th December 2015 a statement from the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on the Paris Climate Change Summit was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Salisbury was amongst those who responded:

SalisburyThe Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the Minister on the achievements in Paris and the part that the UK Government played. The faith communities organised, among those from the wider public sphere, to gather in Paris. Forty-four pilgrims walked from London; seven walked from the Danish-German border; and 22 cycled from Copenhagen. As they travelled on the journey to Paris, they gathered with them the support of the communities through which they travelled and in which meetings were held. This culminated last week with the presentation of a petition, with signatures from 1.83 million people, to Christiana Figueres and President Hollande by 20 of us in the faith communities. This is a deal that many people wanted. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, said that it was the most complex and largest talks he had ever been part of. The sense of achievement is therefore very great in having pulled off the Paris agreement. The UK’s contribution through climate finance was particularly significant.

However, over these last months, the Government have given mixed signals about the commitment to renewable energy. Therefore, there is a question about how the Paris agreement will be implemented domestically. That which was hard fought and hard won now needs to be hard wired. I would like to ask the Minister how, over these next few months, he sees the Government acting across the areas of public policy in order to make sure that this agreement is hard wired into all our thinking and acting across the whole area, not just within DECC and those involved in the environment and climate change. What steps will be taken to ratchet up the UK’s ambition in the way that the Paris agreement envisages so that we become more ambitious about what we are trying to achieve?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: I thank the right reverend Prelate very much for his kind words and note, in particular, the lead that he has given through the Lambeth declaration and the fact that that pulled together people of many faiths. There was also a massive role of the Muslim climate group in supporting this. The participation of faith in all this, not least from His Holiness the Pope, was significant. I thank him also for what he said about climate finance. The contribution that this was able to make to the debate, and speaking to people, certainly was significant. Obviously, it is important for developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable countries, because there are degrees, as we are all aware, of poverty. Some small island states in particular need an awful lot of assistance on adaptation as well as mitigation.

The right reverend Prelate asked about the domestic agenda. Again, I refer him to what I said previously about falling costs, which is certainly true. The costs, particularly of solar, are spiralling down very quickly. Given the very clear signal that has been sent out worldwide, we can expect that to continue. The Paris agreement is significant in many respects. It is significant that the world has come together in the positive way in which it did but, on the specific, it is very important that it signals the end of the carbon economy. It is only a question of when. That message going out worldwide to business and being welcomed by business will mean that costs fall.

What are we doing within DECC? First, many DECC officials are taking a little bit of a break, having been up around the clock for the past couple of weeks. That said, work is already going on to see how this is delivered but, of course, the work had started before. We are already looking across government at what we need to do on cars and housing to meet our carbon targets. That work will continue but it is important that this is not just a one-nation issue; this is across the whole world. Hence, the importance of the five-year stock takes and the five-year reviews.